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PETA Wants To Sue Anonymous HuffPo Commenters 590

MarkWhittington writes, quoting himself: "PETA is incensed over an article in the Huffington Post that details that organization's unsettling practice of euthanizing animals in a Virginia facility that many have assumed is a no kill shelter. According to the New York Post, PETA wants to sue some of the people who have left comments on the article. The problem is that, following the practice of many on the Internet, many of the comments are under assumed names or are anonymous. PETA is attempting to discover the true identities of their critics so that it can sue them for defamation."
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PETA Wants To Sue Anonymous HuffPo Commenters

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  • by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:08PM (#43837351)

    Now, PETA, sue me over my opinion.

    • Re:A name for PETA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:16PM (#43837381)

      It's only defamation if it's false. How do you sue people for telling the truth?

      • Re:A name for PETA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tysonedwards ( 969693 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:27PM (#43837425)
        The truth is in the eye of a Judge whom is best swayed by a well-crafted legal strategy.
      • Re:A name for PETA (Score:5, Informative)

        by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @12:57AM (#43837843)

        How do you sue people for telling the truth?

        1) Fill out the forms. A Civil Cases Cover Sheet, a Summons, and a Complaint all must be filled out in order to file a lawsuit. You must include facts concerning the case and a legally recognizable cause of action in order for the suit to proceed. It is best to have an attorney help you do this to make sure the forms are filled out correctly. See USCourtForms.com for sample forms you can use.

        2) File the complaint. Make two copies of your forms, go to the courthouse, and file the originals with the court according to their instructions. Make sure you provide the forms in the format specified by the court, to prevent delays from occurring. In most cases you will have to pay a filing fee, but this can be waived if you show you can't afford it. Keep the two extra copies.

        3) Have the defendant served. The next step is to notify the defendant that he or she is being sued by serving him or her with a copy of the court documents. The case cannot move forward until this happens. Documents must be served by someone over 18 who is not part of the case. You cannot serve your own documents.
        Ask for help at the courthouse if you aren't sure who should serve your documents.

        4) Wait for a hearing. After the defendant has been served, the court will review the lawsuit and instruct you on how it will move forward.

      • Doesn't matter how baseless it is, you can file suit. However, that is not to say you'll succeed or it is a good idea. A judge can throw the case out in pre-trial, and can impose sanctions if it is an extremely stupid suit.

        In PETA's case, I imagine this is largely a publicity stunt and something to try and harass detractors. They wouldn't really want this to go to trial as it would not go in their favour.

      • Re:A name for PETA (Score:5, Informative)

        by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:46AM (#43838989)

        You can sue people for whatever you want. The lawsuit might not stand up in court, but if you can bankrupt the person with legal costs (or otherwise force them to settle with you), then you don't have to win the case.

        This is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, and many states have laws against it. Unfortunately, not all of them do, and while I don't know what state PETA is suing in, worth noting is that Virginia (the state where the shelter in question is located) does not.

      • Re:A name for PETA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @08:26AM (#43839639)

        I think this is wrong,. It's only defamation if it's false AND the author knew it as false at the time it was authored.

        The truth is an absolute defense of course. Another defense is no reasonable reader would have taken what was said as a matter of fact - factual truth- and not rampant speculation or snide remark or political statement or matter of opinion not likely to be based in fact. If the target is a person in the public eye, you have to affirmatively say, in effect "X is the actual, real facts" and know that it's not.

        A famous case involving the National Enquirer and Carol Burnett springs to mind. She had to prove that the paper knew the allegations (about her being drunk) were false. She was able to do that in that case and the paper lost.

        Mostly you can have at it WRT to famous people or undefined grouping of people "all lawyers' or "that industry" no lawsuit is going to be won, although of course anyone can sue anyone anywhere at any time for any reason.

        For instance, if PETA sued someone in New York State because they were arguing against PETA in a public discussion forum, then that person could sue PETA back under New York State's SLAPP Law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ) protects people from being sued by (and gives legal recourse against ) entities if the action that person is being sued for was participating in a public forum on a matter of public interest.

        PETA appears to me to be pulling a Scientology here and trying to get the word out to *everyone* that it's "dangerous" to say anything negative against PETA .

        On the internet, this is known to be the opposite of a good strategy and PETA now has two PR disasters on its hand, one considerably worse than the other. They could have talked their way out of the first one (the Humane Society puts animals down also, it's just a logistical fact about animals and the amount of money and space to take care of them) .

        But suing Susie Homebody because she said a bad thing about your big organization? That's just cyber bullying and everyone knows it. This is going to backfire on PETA big time and probably a lot of people are going to start posting statements online just to spite them, like :

        "Ingrid Newkirk is well known to masturbate using lobster tails"


        "PETA is listed as an organization likely to be associated with terrorism because it's radical members have been linked to bombing of animal labs in universities and one of their founders, Alice Newkirk has written that no movement for social change has ever succeeded without what she calls the militarism component, saying things like:

        "Thinkers may prepare revolutions," she wrote of the ALF in 2004, "but bandits must carry them out."[95]


        "Not until black demonstrators resorted to violence did the national government work seriously for civil rights legislation ... In 1850 white abolitionists, having given up on peaceful means, began to encourage and engage in actions that disrupted plantation operations and liberated slaves. Was that all wrong?"

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_for_the_Ethical_Treatment_of_Animals [wikipedia.org]

        More from Wikipedia on the PETA - TERRORISM connection:

        In 2004 The Observer described what it called a network of relationships between apparently unconnected animal rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic, writing that, with assets of $6.5 million, and with the PETA Foundation holding further assets of $15 million, PETA funds a number of activists and groupsâ"some with links to militant groups, including the ALF, which the FBI has named as a domestic terrorist threat. American writer Don Liddick writes that PETA gave $1,500 to the Earth Liberation Front in 2001â"Newkirk said the donation was a mistake, and that the money had been intended for public education about destruction of habitat, but Liddick writes that it went to t

  • by Guinness Beaumont ( 2901413 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:10PM (#43837357)
    PETA pushes the article's circulation into the stratosphere, via the Streisand effect, effectively shooting themselves in the foot. Congrats, idiots.
    • by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:25PM (#43837417)
      Nah, this is intentional. PETA PR technique has been 100% strident and ridiculous for many years, because they long ago figured out that it gets them coverage.
    • by spongman ( 182339 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:32PM (#43837451)

      I would probably never have known anything about this if it weren't for this. I will never donate to PETA again. Streisand indeed.

      • by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:56PM (#43837597) Homepage

        You donated to PETA before this?

        • At one point in time or another, I'm sure we've all had the wrong idea of what PETA is actually about.
    • But I think PETA subscribes to the "all press is good press" school of thought.
    • Frankly it appears that PETA has found an exemption to the Streisand effect.
    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      Yeah, nut-cults aren't really known for acting in their own best interests.


  • hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:20PM (#43837397)

    euthanizing an animal is good

    euthanizing an animal and using its protein is evil

    now excuse me while I use the protein of a lovely and beautiful and once-free-and-frolicking sea kitten

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:23PM (#43837413)

    If we weren't supposed to eat animals, they wouldn't be made out of meat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How can you have any pudding, if you don't eat your meat?

    • I feel bad but really, it's their fault for tasting so good......
  • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:29PM (#43837433)

    To be fair to PETA, at least one example from TFA is absolutely false:

    it objects to terms like "animal Kervorkians,"

    It is completely false and unfair to compare PETA to Dr. Kevorkian. Dr. Kervokian only killed people who volunteered to die. PETA, on the other hand, is killing animals who have not volunteered to die. PETA is an organization animal murderers (the meat goes to waste, therefore it is murder and not food) while Dr. Kevorkian assisted patients in committing suicide. Big difference.

    • I wish somebody would stop and ask the following question: What is the ethical way to treat massive numbers of abandoned and unadoptable pets, if you don't have an endless farm somewhere upstate with endless food and veterinary care? I don't love PETA (for reasons unrelated to this) but I'm pretty sure that if they had alternatives beside euthanasia, they would use them. It's sad, but let's not be children about it. The alternative for those animals is a fate much worse than a humane death at the hands of P
      • by mjr167 ( 2477430 )
        Except PETA euthanizes adoptable animals. According to the state of Virginia, PETA kills well over 90% of all pets that enter their shelters. PETA's is against pets. Period. They do not believe humans should keep cats and dogs in their homes as companions and that the animals are better off dead than living with you or me. I am very familiar with several local animal rescue/shelters in my area who do not need to kill their animals. It's a lot of work, but there are lots of people willing to do it.
      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        if they had alternatives beside euthanasia, they would use them

        Apparently they don't, since they kill a far, far higher percentage of the pets they receive than even your underfunded local county animal shelter. The viewpoint of PETA members that I have spoken to is that any domesticated animal is in a permanent state of misery since their life is "not natural", and they would be better off dead rather than living in a warm house in the company of humans.
  • by Torodung ( 31985 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:31PM (#43837445) Journal

    PETA is attempting to discover the true identities of the supressive persons [wikipedia.org] so that it can sue them for defamation.

    FTFY. Like Scientologists, these people and free speech don't get along.

  • by exabrial ( 818005 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:34PM (#43837463)
    For a minute, I thought PETA was poking the hacker group Anonymous with a stick. Now THAT would be an interesting battle... I'm a little disappointed.
  • People for the Eating of Tasty Animals--BEHOLD!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/358317592 [flickr.com]


    http://www.amatteroftasteinc.com/peta.html [amatteroftasteinc.com]

    Claimer: I proudly own these "Mashed Potatoes" and "Vegetarian" shirts and people take pictures of us all the time--99%+ of people love them and they're the BEST ice-breakers! (No joke)

  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:39PM (#43837497) Homepage

    in its shelters. "In 2011, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) behaved in a regrettably consistent manner: it euthanized the overwhelming majority of dogs and cats that it accepted into its shelters. Out of 760 dogs impounded, they killed 713, arranged for 19 to be adopted, and farmed out 36 to other shelters (not necessarily "no kill" ones). As for cats, they impounded 1,211, euthanized 1,198, transferred eight, and found homes for a grand total of five. PETA also took in 58 other companion animals -- including rabbits. It killed 54 of them."

    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/03/petas-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-history-of-killing-animals/254130/ [theatlantic.com]

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html [huffingtonpost.com]

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:47PM (#43837535)

    I can only imagine its some out of touch half drunk twits that sign checks at cocktail parties so attractive but vapid people can pretend to like them.

    Who is honestly proud of anything PETA has done? They have no impact on the society. So at best they're failures. At worst... Oh god, does it get bad.

    They were sort of funny when they threw red ink on socialites wearing fur coats but then they went after people's pets and BACON!... there's no coming back from that.

  • fundraiser (Score:4, Funny)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Monday May 27, 2013 @11:56PM (#43837595)
    I think we need to hold a fundraiser so we can finally take these awesome PETA fanatics and give them what they've always wanted; a life in and around happy, free animals...lions specifically. A big field full of lions. Lions are also known for their ethical treatment of other animals.
  • Dear PETA... (Score:4, Informative)

    by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl@noSPAM.excite.com> on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @12:01AM (#43837619) Journal

    You're a bunch of liars, hypocrites, and assholes. And do feel free to give it a shot, we have excellent anti-SLAPP provisions in my state.

  • by Loba Art ( 2933853 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @12:08AM (#43837661)
    Let me preface this comment by stating that, as an animal advocate, I am not in ideological alignment with PETA and I do not generally support this organization. That said, Nathan Winograd's HuffPo article amounts to little more than malicious hearsay and it is incredibly biased, leaving out critical information in favor of whipping lazy readers into a furor. PETA does not euthanize adoptable animals. PETA has an open-door program in place to accept and euthanize sick and injured animals which cannot be accepted into other animal shelters, in order to prevent them from being abandoned otherwise. Limited resources necessarily force animal shelters to pick and choose which animals they will accept and when they will accept them -- leaving some unwanted animals with no other place to go but the roadside or the dumpster. People who don't want their pet, or can't afford to treat the pet's illness or injury, will abandon them. It's horrible, but it happens all the time. If there isn't a place, especially in a large and poorer urban area, that will accept any animal at any time regardless of condition, people abandon them. It's that simple. As someone who has lived in rural areas for more than fifteen years, I've seen the little-discussed end result of the failed "no-kill" mission and limited-admission shelters -- a constant stream of aggressive, injured, and sick pets dumped on country roads because the local shelter turned them away. As far as I can tell, PETA has not attempted to deceive the public about their program or its purpose -- in fact, PETA maintains a website about the program called "Why PETA Euthanizes." PETA appears to be quite public about this program and why they believe it is necessary. Furthermore, Winograd is believed to be responsible for posting anonymous comments on articles by or about him to make it seem as though he has reinforcements. Truth is an absolute defense to slander/libel claims, but PETA absolutely has the right to sue for defamation if the comments are untrue. Further reading: http://www.whypetaeuthanizes.com/ [whypetaeuthanizes.com] http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/rebuttal-huffington-posts-nathan-j-winograd [opposingviews.com] http://www.houstonpress.com/2009-01-29/news/barc-sucks/6/ [houstonpress.com]
    • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:41AM (#43838011) Homepage

      Let me preface this comment by stating that, as an animal advocate, I am not in ideological alignment with PETA and I do not generally support this organization.

      No, but you certainly appear to have drunk their kool-aid... because you repeat their party line almost word for word.

      That said, Nathan Winograd's HuffPo article amounts to little more than malicious hearsay and it is incredibly biased, leaving out critical information in favor of whipping lazy readers into a furor.

      There's nothing in there that people who actually follow animal rights issues haven't heard before - and it's not all hearsay. This shelter has been under fire for years for it's euthanasia policies, and PETA's involvement with questionable euthanasia policies in other locations is well documented.

      As far as I can tell, PETA has not attempted to deceive the public about their program or its purpose -- in fact, PETA maintains a website about the program called "Why PETA Euthanizes." PETA appears to be quite public about this program and why they believe it is necessary.

      That sound you heard was the article's point zooming over your head - while your head was either deeply buried in the sand. PETA advertises the facility as a shelter - but makes no effort to operate it as a shelter. There's no adoption hours, no counselors, no rehabilitation, nothing but a freezer to store bodies.

      Furthermore, Winograd is believed to be responsible for posting anonymous comments on articles by or about him to make it seem as though he has reinforcements.

      I see... it's wrong for Mr Winograd to spread hearsay... but it's perfectly acceptable for you to do so. And you're amazingly ignorant of the state of animal advocacy in the US if you believe that there's so few opponents to PETA that an author has to create sockpuppets to make it appear that people support him.
      tl;dr version: Either you're a PETA sockpuppet, or you're amazingly ignorant the facts.

      • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @02:06AM (#43838111)

        PETA sockpuppet,

        1. Look at the user ID. It's so new it's still wet behind the ears.
        2. Aha, let's look at their postings. Only postings in this thread - no other history.
        3. So let's check Loba Art's friends...

        Loba Art (2933853) is all alone in the world.

        I would agree with your assessment. Loba Art is a PETA sock.


    • by c ( 8461 )

      That said, Nathan Winograd's HuffPo article amounts to little more than malicious hearsay and it is incredibly biased, leaving out critical information in favor of whipping lazy readers into a furor.

      The core of his argument is based around documents filed by PETA's shelter to the state indicating the intake, adoption, and euthanasia rates of their "animal shelter".

      Note the part of his discussion which centers on the fact that by calling their operational a "shelter", there's an understanding that they'll ac

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @02:20AM (#43838145) Homepage

    PETA should be allowed to discover the identities of the posters for the purposes of suing them, if the statements are in fact defamatory. But the first bar PETA should have to clear is to demonstrate to the court that the statements are in fact defamatory. And they should be required to identify the allegedly-defamatory posts publicly, so the posters can retain counsel and contest the allegations without having their identity revealed. Only after they've prevailed on the "the statements are defamatory" part should they be allowed discovery as to the identities of the posters. And if they fail to follow through and file suit, sanctions should be imposed for abuse of process.

    Being anonymous should not mean you can't be held accountable for what you say, but the first step should be showing that someone could be held legally accountable for saying what was said. If what was said isn't actionable, then it shouldn't matter who said it.

  • by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @08:02AM (#43839467)

    This is a YRO story. Can the courts compel HuffPo to turn over the identities of the users? Under what circumstances? If the courts have the legal power to do this, SHOULD they have this power?

    I tend to err strongly on the side of free speech. I don't like the idea of courts having this power, because the circumstances under which they could compel disclosure of identities are always subject to change. Today it might be defamation, tomorrow it might be legitimate criticism of the government.

    Leaving aside the question of existing law, I would argue that rantings of an AC on an internet forum can't meet a standard of causing "harm" to a person or organization. Regardless of how libelous or scandalous the comment, an AC has zero credibility unless they are able to provide facts which can then be independently verified. If the facts harm the reputation of a person or group, then truth should be an absolute defense (although in many countries that's not the case). Otherwise, any anonymous and unsubstantiated accusations should be dismissed out of hand and deemed 'harmless'.

An egghead is one who stands firmly on both feet, in mid-air, on both sides of an issue. -- Homer Ferguson